The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received royal assent on 25 June 2020 with the new ‘no-fault’ divorce system set to be implemented on 6 April 2022.
The system will remove the ability to make allegations regarding the conduct of a spouse. It will also enable couples to end their marriage either through a joint application for the first time or for one party to initiate the process as a sole applicant.
It introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and the application for a conditional order. It is intended that this will provide couples with a period of reflection to consider the consequences of divorcing. After 26 weeks, an application can be made for the final order in divorce proceedings.
Under the previous regime, a divorce was obtained by evidencing that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by relying on one of five facts. Often, parties would obtain a divorce based on unreasonable behaviour, which could be said to apportion blame and therefore hinder cooperation.
The current list of five facts is set to be replaced by a single method which will require one spouse to provide a legal statement to say that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
The reforms will mean that it is no longer possible for a respondent to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds, including jurisdiction.
These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.
The legislation is not intended to cover financial proceedings, which are dealt with separately, and to which the court has wide discretion. Many have questioned the government as to when it will review the law regarding financial provisions, as it considered by many to be the most costly and time-consuming part of the divorce process.
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